My church looks more like an Erector Set with icons. Our choir director, Chuck Simerick doubles as the lead contractor leading the Saturday building sessions and weeknight work. It is amazing to see how we have gutted the place and put up these metal studs. After a while, there will be some drywall up as well. We have all been busy giving our hands in labor. This certainly is not an overnight process. In fact, we won’t be finished for a few months still. But, nothing worthwhile takes place in an instant. Try to microwave a 4 lb. Boston Butt and smoke another for an hour per pound at 250 degrees and see which one is edible. In speaking of new structures, the Virginia Chapter of the Brotherhood of St Moses the Black will hold its First Symposium on Saturday, September 4th at 4 pm! I am excited that my church will be hosting the event in spite of our work. In fact, I think it is symbolic that this movement to introduce the ancient faith to African-Americans, which is a work in progress, is having its first event in a work in progress. I am also excited that Sub Deacon Paul Abernathy of FOCUS Pittsburgh and the St. Moses Mission will be the guest speaker. This brother is articulate, inspiring, and filled with the grace of God! Don’t take my word for it. Check out the speech given a couple of years back. Better still, meet with us at Hampton for the symposium! Meeting Bishop Thomas last year, he said he’d be interested in an informal meeting with my (then) congregation and others in my area. I am still very interested in forming this structure; a bridge of dialogue between the African-American Baptist and the Orthodox Church. A Pentecostal Apostle and and Orthodox Archpriest in New York have done that with two East-West Meet & Greet sessions. Perhaps in October, I can bring this idea up again. We will see if God is willing. Yet, as their is a need for some new structures, I am glad to experience something that is (and should be) without change. I remember on first Sunday mornings how my grandfather prepared the communion. Deacon Joseph (“Daddy Joe”) didn’t say much when he did it. It seemed that he had his mind fixed on the task at hand. He cut the crust off of a few slices of bread and cut them in what seemed to be perfectly measured little squares. Daddy Joe had a glass bottle with some sort of bulb and tube thing on it where when he squeezed the bulb, the perfect amount of grape juice came out into each cup. Though a symbol of the body and blood to the Baptist, he prepared the Lord’s Supper with reverence. With no iconostasis blocking my view, I got a chance to watch Fr. James prepare the Eucharist. It was as if the spirit of my grandfather was right there as Fr. carefully prayed the prescribed prayers in preparing the body and blood of our Lord. The bread came from the oven of one of our members and was broken with the name of each one of us in mind and a few for any visiting Orthodox guest. The wine and water mixed appropriately as prayers were constantly offered as part of the process. Bishops and priest have been preparing the Lord’s Supper in the same spirit of reverence since the days of the Apostles. There is no Eucharist, Communion, or Lord’s Supper without reverence from the one who prepares and the one who receives. It is better not to take it at all than to take the literal (or even symbolic) body and blood of Christ with an attitude of spiritual complacency. These are holy gifts which should not be taken lightly. That we are able to serve (ordained clergy) and receive them is of the great grace of God. When we cheapen them by having the wrong frame of mind; we cheapen grace, ourselves, salvation, and God. May this not be so with us. Please, be in prayer before, during, and after partaking of this meal. As we say in our Divine Liturgy, “The Holy Things Are For The Holy.”
So, I can be an idealist trying to make a better and fair world for everyone by boycotting a said fast food restaurant because it’s president told a religious magazine that he believes marriage should only be between heterosexuals. Or, I can be a defender of the biblical principles and the first amendment by eating at a said fast food restaurant because it’s president told a religious magazine that he believes marriage should only be between heterosexuals. I couldn’t have made up such silliness if I tried.
Firstly, I think the LGB&T community (it’s most radical elements, perhaps I should say) have picked a foolish fight. Nowhere in Chick-Fil-A’s corporate policy nor general operations do they check the sexual preference status of potential customers or employees. If this were the case, than legal argument can be presented. But, the president of a company has every right to express his religious beliefs in a religious magazine. It seems that you are showing the same sort of intolerance you want to defeat. Hypocrisy only defeats your cause.
And to the conservative minded, I can’t help but to wonder where were your “Defend Freedom of Speech” voices when the Dixe Chicks were being boycotted and Rev. Jeremiah Wright was being cursed for his cursing. Somewhere between 60% to 65% of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce. Is this the result of LGB&T bullying, or that we are disobedient to the biblical principles that promote lasting unions between men and women? Somehow, I don’t think eating fast food in the name of freedom will make these statistics any better.
There is a good reason why we should consider taking up the Fast of the Dormition. That for the next 14 days we stop trying to have things our way and submit ourselves to God’s will. That we sacrifice our pleasures and seek his purpose in our lives instead. It will take more than two weeks of veganism to heal the social-political rift in our nation. But, the Dormition is a good time for us to take a breath and think about something more important. Putting aside sensual desire to bear something greater than one’s self. Yielding to the will and Spirit of God even when it moves beyond one’s expectations. Mary did these things.
It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify you.
Benediction of the Morning and Evening Prayer, The Orthodox Study Bible